SleepyDee Geckos

Mad About Geckos
Pictures of some of my Geckos
General Leopard Gecko information
Leopard Gecko Behaviour

Leopard gecko caresheets
Basic care-guides for Helmeted Geckos; Viper Geckos; Barking Geckos; Knob-Tailed Geckos and Mourning geckos DIY hides, caves and bark

The Enigma Syndrome Study

Gecko Care Sheets

Starting Out

Leopard geckos are ideal pets for both beginners and pro's alike as well as being relatively hardy - providing the care that leos require is given, unfortunately (and all too often) many leo's are bought as pets without even the basics known or they are kept in unsuitable conditions often to the detriment of the leo's health. A good rule for anybody thinking of buying a leo is to think about the following:

1. Have you researched as much as you can from books and other resources?
2. Can you afford not only the needed set-up but also the vet fee's if something does go wrong?
3. Can you give the leo the care and attention it needs?

Buying your first Leo

When buying a leo there's usually two ways of doing so - either from a pet-shop or a private breeder - again there are several things worth looking at and asking.....

• Are the leo's kept in crowded conditions?
• Do they look healthy and alert with fat tails, do any of them have discharges from the nose or wounds etc and are the vivs/tanks clean?
• Are there signs of bad sheds with either accumilated dry skin on toes or toes missing?
• Are young leo's or those under 6 inches in length being kept on sand or a loose particle substrate?
Crowded conditions can lead to some being bullied by others and - especially if the conditions are unclean - leo's can be stressed with an increased risk of disease spreading and poor health. Young leo's being kept on sand are at a greater risk of impaction. (more on this in the Health section)
• What sex are the leo's and how old?
Smaller, younger leo's have slightly different requirements and can require greater care then older leo's. Female leo's can be kept together if the tank/viv is large enough and a watch is kept on them for any bullying or fighting as females do not always get on together ~ for this reason I always advise having a spare set-up incase you have to seperate them. Males cannot be kept together as they are territorial and will fight.
• What are the leo's being fed on?
Different shops/breeders all have their prefered diet for their leo's ~ some feed a combination of livefood while others may stick to just one or two types ~ some leo's won't eat anything other then what they are used to so if change is required it's best done gradually.
• Finally; if you are buying a second leo (or more) at a later stage I always recommend quarentining them for a minimum of 3 months to ensure they are healthy. Don't assume that all captive breed shop or breeder bought leo's are parasite free so I always advise having feacal checks done not only on new arrivals but on all geckos at regular intervals throughout the year.

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I would recommend that the tank/viv is set-up several days before getting a new leo; this way you can have everything ready and waiting but more importantly if there are any problems ie with the UTH and/or Thermostat it can be rectified. New young leo's can on occasion take a day or so too settle in to their new home whilst healthy adults may on occasion take longer, sometimes upto a week..

Here's a guide list suitable for one leopard gecko -

1 x vivarium or tank ~ 24L x 12w x 12h
1 x UTH (under tank heatmat)/Heatmat and thermostat
1 x digital thermometer (preferably one with a probe)
1 x water bowl
1 x humid hide
2 x hide
1 x calci-dish
Supplements ~ Calcium powder (ie: Calypso or similar), vitamin supplement (ie: Nutrabol or similar)
Other decor as wanted.

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Set-up & Substrate

Substrate is a heated topic on many forums and with many keepers, it is advisable to check the pro's and cons of each type of substrate and not just rely on what a manufacturer states ~ there have been numerous instances of leo's suffering (and dying) from impaction due to some types of substrates either through directly eating the substrate (which is more often due to lack of or incorrect supplementation especially of calcium or bad husbandry) or by ingestion of the substrate when hunting. Contrary to popular belief, their natural environment is NOT loose, dune type sand.
When choosing a substrate it is worth remembering that most heatmat manufacturers recommend a substrate depth of 1cm or less for efficient heating ~ using a substrate deeper then 1cm could affect the temperature range of the heatmat or even cause it to fail altogether.

Paper Towel (Kitchen Roll) ~ cheap and easy to replace when cleaning, low risk and the only substrate really suitable for hatchlings and juveniles.
Tiles, Slate ~ these are again easy to clean off with no risk of impaction but care is needed especially with glass tanks due to the weight. A thin layer of sand can be used to fill in any gaps, in a wooden viv it can also be used underneath the tiles/slate to provide an even base between them and the UTH.
Lino/Vinyl flooring ~ again easy to clean, would recommend not using highly polished effects as this can make it hard for the leo to grip especially when running/hunting. If used inside a wooden viv it may be worth checking if the lino/vinyl is a make suitable for underfloor heating.
Reptile Carpet ~ mats can be changed and washed but it is advisable to get those that do not have 'looped' fibres due to the risk of leo's catching their claws in them.
Playsand ~ many keepers have used the very fine sand successfully and with little or no problems but I would advise only using it with adult leo's or those over 6 inches in length and keeping a watch for possible problems.
~ I would not recommend this at all. Contrary to what it says on the bag it is not digestable as stated by the manufacturers and leo's have been known to deliberately eat this for the calcium resulting in impaction.
Bark Chips, Crushed Walnut, CornCob, Gravel ~ not
recommended. All are totally indigestable with a high risk of possible impaction if eaten.
Cat Litter, Sawdust, Woodflakes/Shavings
~ all are unsuitable and not recommended for use with leo's. Not withstanding the obvious problems of high risk impaction due to being totally indigestable if eaten they are primarily meant for other uses and animals.

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Heating & Lighting

An undertank heater (UTH) is a necessity with leo's as they use the heat to aid digestion and thermoregulate themselves, ideally the heat mat should cover about one third of the tank floor so to allow for a hot end (approximately 88*F-92*F/ 31*C-33*C) grading down to a cool end (approximately 75*F ~ 23*C ). A thermostat helps keep the UTH at a constant temperature and from over heating.
If using a wooden viv then the UTH needs to go inside underneath the substrate with the probes from both the thermostat and the thermometer in or on the substrate nearby; preferably ontop of the heatmat to measure the ground heat accurately, if using a glass tank/viv then put the UTH under the outside of the tank/viv allowing for a small airspace between the UTH and glass ~ this will help prevent the glass cracking from the heat; a sheet of polystyrene (or similar) placed beneath the UTH will protect furnishings while also reflecting heat back up towards the viv.
Heating cables are also sometimes used; they work similar to heat mats and are available in a variety of lengths and wattages ~ again they should be used with a thermostat.
When setting up the heatmat and stat first set it to the prefered temperature then leave for two - three hours to warm up before checking again and re-adjusting as necessary ~ repeat until the temperatures remain constant and stable at the required temperatures.
I would not recommend heat rocks for use with leo's as they have been known to cause thermal burns.

~ Leopard geckos are nocturnal/crepuscular so lighting is not really essential in a normal well-lit room where they have a sense of the day and night hours, however in a darker room a lighting system kept on a timer with regular settings can achieve this. If wanted small, low wattage lighting in the blue and red spectrum can be used for night viewing. It is important that any lighting used does not overheat the viv or tank.
UV lamps are not essential as leo's are nocturnal/crepuscular and appropriate supplements ~ if given correctly ~ provide the necessary vitamins.

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Hides & Humid Hides

A range of hides and humid hides
A range of hides and humid hides
A range of hides and humid hides
A range of hides and humid hides
A range of hides and humid hides
A range of hides and humid hides
A range of hides and humid hides

Hides are essential for leopard geckos, they provide somewhere for them to sleep during the day and give them a sense of security. There are many varied types on the market today ranging from caves to hollow logs, from simple to more complex; the best ones seeming to be those that are small enough for the leo to curl in without to much excess room. Ideally there should be a hide placed at both the 'hot' end and 'cool' end of the viv or tank.

Humid Hides ~ These are needed to provide the moisture necessary for leo's when they shed. They can be as simple as a lidded tupperware box (or similar) with a hole cut carefully in the top or side large enough for the leo to enter or 'Shedding Stumps'; both part filled with a damp medium such as moss, eco-earth or vermiculite; this should be placed on the 'cool' end of the viv or tank. Humid hides also serve as egg-laying boxes for gravid females.

Water Dishes ~ Although leo's come from dry arid places fresh, clean water should be provided for them. A small, un-tippable water dish should be placed in the cool side (to prevent excess humidity) of the tank or viv.

Cleaning ~ leo's are on the whole quite clean and will pick one area to defecate in; this allows for easier regular cleaning ~ I put small squares of kitchen-paper in the toilet area which I just remove and replace with clean daily along with removing any dead crickets, debris etc. Water dishes should be cleaned often and regularly; this prevents any build-up of algea and more importantly bacteria. I would recommend cleaning the entire viv or tank along with all decor at least every month or so ~ although leo's only defecate in one area they will walk through it and assorted livefood doesn't care where it defecates.

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Livefood and Gut Loading

Black cricket
brown cricket
Pair of adult Dubia Roaches
Black Cricket
Brown Cricket
Dubia Roach

Approx. Nutritional Value of Livefood
Moisture %
Fat %
Ca:P Ratio %
Protein %
Black Cricket
Brown Cricket
Silent Crickets
Meal Worms
Phoenix Worms
Butter Worms*
1:1.8 (est)
1 : 2.35

Dubia Roaches*

Wax Worms**
** locust nutritional values taken from Japanese koi breeder statistics
* Although high in calcium have a high Calorie/fat total value so recommended as treats only.

Extremely fatty so recommended as treats only if used at all
* Dubia nutritional values taken from various sources

Leo's are insectivors and live food is vital for them. There is a wide variety of livefood now readily available ~ from crickets, to locusts (hoppers), roaches, mealworms etc ~ from both local pet stores and online shops (the latter being especially good if buying in bulk). Other livefoods include waxworms and pinkies ~ both of these should be fed in moderation only if at all; waxworms are high in fat and leo's can become addicted to them to the exclusion of other livefood which is not good for the leo; there have also been reports of pinkies causing gout in male leos so if used are best only as occasional treats for gravid females. All livefood should be well gutloaded for at least 24 hours before feeding to the leo's.
Any uneaten food such as crickets ~ should ideally be removed to avoid it stressing the leo or nibbling on the leo while it sleeps however if it's not possible to get all the crickets out then one tip would be to place a piece of apple or carrot in a shallow dish and put this in the viv ..... this way the crickets have something to nibble on and it brings them out of hiding for your gecko to eat them.

~ All livefood needs to be gutloaded; this can be done in a variety of ways ~ from using fresh fruit and vegetables (such as apples, pears, green veg, carrots etc) grated and put in a dish with the livefood or buying a premade 'gutloader' product ~ I prefer to use a mix of fresh vegetables, fruit and cereals; my view being the better the livefood is fed the better it is for my geckos ~ either way it is essential to make the livefood nutritious for your leo's to keep them healthy.
Another point worth making is keeping the livefood clean especially if buying in bulk; remove stale food regularly, also remove any dead livefood ~ crickets especially will cannibalise on other crickets ~ and clean out the livefood box before adding more livefood to it.

fish food
Essential gutloading foods for livefood

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Supplements are another essential for healthy leopard geckos; these consist of a vitamin & D3 powder (Nutrabol or similar) and a calcium only powder ~ I use Calypso Calcium powder. All livefood should be dusted with the vitamin & D3 powder once or twice a week before feeding with all other feeds dusted with pure calcium the rest of the time. The best way of dusting livefood is the 'shake&bake' method ~ the livefood is put into a plastic bag with a small amount of powder and shaken to coat it.
There should also be a dish of pure calcium powder available at all times for the leo's to help themselves from in the viv/tank.

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One of my viv set-ups
One of my basic viv set-ups

Other Decor

Other decor while not necessary does make a tank or viv look nicer ~ from weird shaped bogwood, gnarled roots to plastic fake plants and corkbark, vivs can either be made to look 'naturalistic' or 'out of this world'. One advantage to using even basic decor is that it can provide different textures and levels for a leo to climb or hide under. Plastic or stone/fake wood items should all be washed and dried thoroughly before putting in a viv, if using dead wood found or bought then it is advisable to gently rinse it off to remove dust before baking in an oven at low temperature for an hour or so to kill any mites etc that may be hidden in or on it.

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Vivarium and Tank Measurement
Converter Graphs

Thought these graphs would be of help especially given the confusion that sometimes happens when tank or viv measurements are given in gallons or litres as opposed to inches or centimetres. For instance leo homes need more floor space then height so a 21 gallon tank measuring 48" L x 12"w x 12"h is far better then a 21 gallon tank measuring 16"L x 18"w x 24"h.

Imperial to Gallon
Imperial to gallon conversion chart

Metric to Litre
Metric to litre conversion chart

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Celsius & Fahrenheit Convertor

Another handy convertor that I thought may be of help ~ just type in the temperature then click either the celsius or fahrenheit buttons depending on which conversion you require.

Fahrenheit to Celsius / Celsius to Fahrenheit Converter

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*The information written on my website and in my various care sheets has been gathered
through my own personal experiance and research over the years ~
Please do not use or replicate any information or photographs without permission ~ thankyou *

Interesting Facts

When frightened both the Leo and Fat-tail can drop their tails in a process called caudal autotomy.

In the wild leo's inhabit rocky, dry/arid grassland regions with hard packed substrate
~ NOT loose, dune type sand.

Leo's and Fat-tails can literally 'close' their ears.

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